So you wanna watch a Kdrama, but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, y’all, I got you covered. Today, I’ll be talking about 12 Kdramas currently on Netflix you can start right now.
If you’re not familiar with Korean dramas, that’s totally cool! I didn’t know what they were when I found them so many years ago, but I quickly grew to love them (in fact, I watch more Korean dramas than I do American televsion). They are trope-y fanfictiony goodness all rolled into 16-20 episodes. That’s right, 16-20 episodes. Unlike American tv which has multiple seasons of shows, Korean dramas tend to tell their story completely within a much shorter time frame. Typical dramas only air for a few months and then they’re done! No season two, three four, etc. There are exceptions to this, but very few. I actually found the format refreshing because I knew that once I started a Kdrama, I wouldn’t have to wait 8 seasons to see certain developments. All in all, I’ve become obsessed with them and can’t wait to share my love with y’all.
Recently, Netflix has stepped up its Kdrama game, adding more and more Kdramas to their service (including Netflix originals!) and I could not be more thrilled with this. When I first started getting into Kdrama, my selection was limited. Netflix barely had any (in fact, at the time, Hulu had an entire library of ’em) and I had to use Dramafever (RIP 😭) and Viki for most of my fix. But these days, that’s not the case at all. Not only has Netflix added some old favorites, they’re regularly picking up current and new Kdramas at a fast pace. Here’s a few options for you if you feel like checking them out.
*I’m from the US so these will all be found in the US Netflix catalog.
BOYS OVER FLOWERS
Boys Over Flowers is a 2009 South Korean television series that is based on the Japanese shōjo manga series Boys Over Flowers written by Yoko Kamio. The series is about an average girl who gets tangled up in the lives of an arrogant rich boy and his friends.
This is my gateway kdrama (as is the case for many kdrama fans) that follows a poor girl/rich boy trope that is way over the top and definitely dated, but if you like lots of drama and ridiculous over the top plotlines including: kidnapping, amnesia, evil mothers, harem romance, and jerk with heart of gold this could be for you.
*Trigger warnings for sexual assault and suicide elements.
Reply 1997 is a 2012 South Korean television series that centers on the lives of six friends in Busan, as the timeline moves back and forth between their past as 18-year-old high schoolers in 1997 and their present as 33-year-olds at their high school reunion dinner in 2012, where one couple will announce that they’re getting married.
This is the most popular entry in the Reply series (I actually like Reply 1988 best), and is definitely a fan favorite. It definitely leaves you in suspense about who ends up with who, but it also has a bittersweet side narrative featuring a boy in love with his male best friend. It’s a far cry from actual representation, but a big step for Korean media to be sure.
Chicago Typewriter depicts three resistance fighters who lived during the 1930s Japanese occupation of Korea, and are reincarnated into the present as a best-selling writer in a slump, a fan, and a ghostwriter. It is an epic story of comradeship, friendship, love and betrayal that lasts 80 years. As the trio of writer, ghostwriter and fan race against time to find the truth of the past that haunts them, will their discovery affect their present?
This drama is one of my underrated faves. Part historical, part supernatural romance, it’s super unique and tons of fun. Plus, the chemistry between the leads is amazing. It is a bit lighter on the romance aspect, but honestly, I just really loved the originality with which the story is told. All the actors in this were fantastic.
BRING IT ON, GHOST
Park Bong-pal has grown up with the ability to see ghosts. He uses his power to work as an exorcist, banishing ghosts in order to make enough money to undergo a procedure that will take his ability away. At a haunted high school, he encounters Kim Hyun-ji, a feisty high school student who, because of a traffic accident, became a wandering spirit. Hyun-ji believes that Bong-pal might hold the secret as to why she is a spirit. In order to be freed from endlessly wandering the earth and be able to ascend to the next life, Hyun-ji convinces Bong-pal to let her move in, and the two become ghost fighting partners.
I happen to be a big fan of supernatural dramas tbh and this is one is pretty solid. I really love both main actors and even though there’s a lot of angst near the end, I still really enjoyed it. The ghosts can be super creepy tho and some of the subject material gets heavy with regard to their episodic storylines.
*Trigger warnings for domestic abuse, child abuse, animal death, and sexual assault.
Kim Je-ha is a former mercenary soldier for the PMC Blackstone. While in Iraq, he gets framed for the murder of his lover Raniya, a civilian. As a result, he runs away and becomes a fugitive. He returns to South Korea and by chance, gets offered to work as a bodyguard by Choi Yoo-jin, the owner of JSS Security Company and wife of the presidential candidate, Jang Se-joon. He accepts the job in exchange for resources that he needs in order to get his revenge on another presidential candidate, Park Kwan-soo, who previously ordered the killing of his lover. In the meantime, Je-ha gets assigned to guard Go An-na, the hidden daughter of Jang Se-joon, whose life is always threatened because of Yoo-jin, her stepmother. An-na, who has been trapped and lonely all her life, starts relying on Je-ha, who shows concern for her and protects her at all costs. They slowly fall in love with each other, which makes Je-ha torn between having to work with his ally, Yoo-jin, in order to get his revenge and protecting his new-found love, An-na, against his own ally.
This is a fantastic action/thriller drama with political overtones. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was watching and I adore Ji Chang Wook– he’s on of my favorite kdrama actors and he’s excellent in these kinds of roles (OMG Healer!). It’s very intense though so be prepared for that.
*Triggers warning for suicide.
THE LIAR AND HIS LOVER
A love story about a heartbroken genius music composer Kang Han-gyul who meets the talented singer and student Yoon So-rim whilst he’s living under a hidden identity. With her courageous honesty and beautiful singing, So-rim draws Han-gyul back to her time and time again. Along the way the two meet obstacles as So-rim starts her career in the music industry and begins to uncover Han-gyul’s lies.
This is a cute and fluffy high school (kinda) drama that has a lower angst factor than other dramas I’ve watched like it. I also really love the musical aspects to it (some of the songs are hella catchy) and I found it to be something light and enjoyable.
A mysterious walkie talkie allows a detective in the year 2000 to communicate with a cold case profiler from 2015; with the power of fore and hindsight the two not only solve crimes but prevent them from ever taking place. However, a long-standing murder case is closer to home than either realizes. A detective Lee Jae-han tries to create a world where those who have done wrong deserve punishment, but a huge force interferes with it.
This is such a neat concept that I was hooked from the beginning. It’s definitely a plot drama rather than a romance or slice of life one. It’s crime with a dash of the supernatural (oh hey, there’s my brand again) and very compelling. If you’re not into romance and prefer more originality in your stories, this one could be for you.
OH MY GHOST
Na Bong-sun has an extremely timid personality and low self-esteem, doesn’t have any close friends, and is constantly getting reprimanded at her job as an assistant chef at Sun Restaurant. She also occasionally sees ghosts, thanks to a shaman grandmother. One day, Bong-sun gets possessed by a lustful virgin ghost named Shin Soon-ae. To make up for the lack of romance in her short life and believing that only by losing her virginity will she be able to “resolve her grudge” and move on to the afterlife, Soon-ae is determined to seduce as many men as she can by possessing various women, and she finds the perfect vessel in Bong-sun. Bong-sun’s boss is arrogant star chef Kang Sun-woo, whom she secretly has a crush on. Sun-woo hasn’t dated anyone since getting his heart broken by his college friend Lee So-hyung, who’s a TV producer. But when Bong-sun seemingly gets rid of her shyness and suddenly changes into a confident, dynamic woman, she finally catches his eye. Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding Soon-ae’s death involves Sun-woo’s brother-in-law, a kind police officer, Choi Sung-jae, who may not be what he seems.
This is such a cute drama, weirdly enough. Even with the supernatural murder elements, it still managed to be lighthearted and funny. I actually binged it over one weekend and found it was pretty well balanced and engaging. If you like slightly supernatural romance, this is adorable and the cast is fantastic.
ROOKIE HISTORIAN GOO HAE RYUNG
In the Joseon Dynasty, where women are objectified and underestimated, free-spirited noble lady Goo Hae-ryung is brave enough to break the status quo. Still single at 26 years old, she focuses on studying and gaining knowledge, something only men should be doing, and in defending those who are wronged and abused. Meanwhile, the young and handsome 20-year-old Prince Yi Rim has been living his life alone in his chamber, the Nokseodang, away from the politics of the royal court. Despite this, he has found comfort and happiness through writing. Hiding his identity under his pen name “Maehwa”, he had been writing romance novels that became famous all over Hanyang, especially to women readers.
THIS DRAMA MAKES ME SMILE SO MUCH. I’m not often a fan of historical dramas in all honesty, but this one was wonderful. I loved both characters and their love story and the plot and the feminism and female friendships. Honestly, this was such a freakin’ delight.
ROMANCE IS A BONUS BOOK
Cha Eun Ho is a successful author and a senior editor at a book publishing company. Kang Dan-i is a mother and former successful advertising copywriter. When Cha Eun Ho was a child, Kang Dan-i saved him from an accident and was injured. Cha Eun Ho helped her recuperate and they have been close friends ever since. When Kang Dan-i goes through a major life change and tries to re-enter the professional world, their lives become even more connected. They face personal and professional challenges as they slowly start to realize their true feelings for each other.
Yo, this drama is so sweet. And a bit of a noona romance (older woman, younger guy) and it is just *chef’s kiss* perfect. Kdramas tend to romanticize the jerk with the heart of gold while the cinnamon rolls get relegated to 2nd male leads that never gets the girl despite being 100x better for her and this drama, this drama CELEBRATES THE CINNAMON ROLL. It’s just… so damn nice.
ONE SPRING NIGHT
When pharmacist and single father Yu Ji-ho has a chance meeting with librarian Lee Jeong-in, they start seeing love and relationships in a brand new light. Lee Jeong-in has been in a four year relationship with her long-time boyfriend, but after meeting Yu Ji-ho, she starts to wonder what she wants out of life and love and realizes it’s a question she hasn’t ever really asked herself. Meanwhile Yu Ji-ho struggles to raise his child and pursue his own happiness even though it complicates his life.
This is one of the more adult dramas I’ve seen and it’s done really well. It tackles the topic of social stigmas about marriage and single parents with grace and precision. I really enjoyed watching this drama. Every episode is ripe with the best sort of tension. Even though it’s not a thriller by any stretch of the mind, I found myself glued to my screen waiting to see what would happen next. I found myself very invested in this love story and these people and thought about it long after I had finished watching.
WHEN THE CAMELLIA BLOOMS
Dong Baek is a single mother living in the small town of Ongsan. She runs the bar-restaurant Camellia, while also taking care of her son Pil Gu. The people of Ongsan frequently gossip about Dong Baek. She grew up as an orphan, is a single mother and runs a bar where many of the men in Ongsan frequent. Regardless of what the locals may whisper about Dong Baek, local police officer Hwang Yong Shik is deeply in love with her. Meanwhile, Dong Baek’s ex-boyfriend Kang Jong Ryeol suddenly reappears in her life. He is a famous baseball player, that hid their relationship when they dated. While Dong Baek tries to find happiness, something truly sinister lurks in the background. A serial killer roams Ongsan and Dong Baek may be a target.
I’m currently watching this one, but it ends next week. I just really appreciate the emergence of the sweet cinnamon roll love interest and this drama has that in spades. It also explores the stigmas of being a single unwed mother and the pressure society puts on women overall with regard to their actions, appearance, and behavior. Lots of mature themes to delve into and I appreciate the candor they use to depict them. I haven’t finished this yet so I don’t know how it ends and can’t accurately warn for triggers, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.
- What are some of your favorite kdramas or tv shows?
- Do you have any favorite tropes you love to see played out on the screen?
- Which books do you think would make good tv shows?
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